World Continence Week (WCW) is a health campaign run by the International Continence Society (ICS) every year to raise awareness of incontinence related issues.
This year it takes place from the 17 – 23 June and during this week The Urology Foundation highlights the impact urinary incontinence can have on our life and encourages those living with it to seek help so they no longer have to suffer in silence.
Many women suffering with incontinence do not realise that women’s physiotherapy offers an effective treatment approach.
“Women’s problems” can be soul destroying, yet society expects women to ‘just get on with it’. That message means ignore your pain, suffer lack of sleep, struggle through your job – if you are able to work, that is. Wear a pad and hope it doesn’t leak – and the embarrassment if it fails, this all has a huge impact on a woman’s confidence and can all relate to a painful delivery years earlier – yet these issues are often highly treatable.”
Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy is a specialist branch of physiotherapy and physios like Kirsten have undertaken specialised training in this area. Kirsten says women can expect understanding from the specialist physiotherapist they see, whether on the NHS or in a private clinic like Neurophysio Wales:
“Like most specialist women’s physiotherapists, I feel a great degree of empathy for my clients. Many of them have experienced long periods of suffering. While NHS physiotherapy treatment is very good, it is not always offered unless asked for, and there can be long waiting lists.
Kirsten says that even just getting to a clinic can be difficult for women struggling with incontinence or pain – travelling on public transport brings the fear of an embarrassing leak. The good news is that treatment is usually highly effective and a programme can often be put into place from the first visit.
“Complications of more invasive treatments for urinary incontinence, such as mesh implants and drugs, have been widely reported but women’s physiotherapy is a highly effective treatment with no side effects. Research has shown that pelvic floor muscle training is cheaper and more effective than one of the main incontinence drugs – and will resolve the issue completely for two out of three patients.
“Another study found that intensive pelvic floor muscle training, plus lifestyle changes, was the most effective method for treating urinary and bowel incontinence.”
As well as a thorough examination and assessment of your condition, a specialist women’s physiotherapist can:
- teach you how to use your pelvic floor muscles correctly
- show you exercises to support and strengthen muscles and help you recover from any birth injuries
- make suggestions on how diet and fluids can help
- show you how to cough whilst protecting your muscles
- talk through possible lifestyle changes
“My particular branch of physiotherapy is really rewarding. Typically my clients arrive in pain, distressed and struggling with disrupted sleep, discomfort, embarrassment and the real disruption to their lives that ‘women’s problems’ can cause.
“They leave feeling ‘heard’, validated, armed with effective techniques they can put into practice immediately to relieve their condition – always, however, my biggest regret is that they have not seen a specialist physiotherapist more quickly – because we can really make a difference.”